Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Monday, September 9, 2013

The National Consultations: Selling Out?

On Saturday, Joseph Kabila opened the Concertations nationales in Kinshasa with this speech, and the first plenary is supposed to take place today. But the political elite in Kinshasa is deeply divided, with some opposition members boycotting the proceedings. While the concertations were initially intended to foster national unity following the debacle of the 2011 elections, it now appears that they are more about positioning ahead of the upcoming 2016 elections.

How so? 

While everyone in Kinshasa––indeed, in the country––has been enthusiastic about the talks, people have radically different understandings of what should be accomplished. There are broadly speaking three different groups:
  1. Some, especially those behind Etienne Tshisekedi's wing of the UDPS, wanted to contest the very legitimacy of the elections and President Kabila. While Tshisekedi is probably inspired by the Conférence national souveraine of 1992, which elected him as prime minister, these are very different times and very few believe that an assembly organized by Kabila could bring about his ouster;  
  2. Others wanted to use the forum as a means to push through national reforms––decentralization, security sector reform, elections. While the usual place for these debates is in parliament, some members of the opposition feel that they need to be included in the structures that oversee these reforms;
  3. A final group sees the concertations as an opportunity to enter into a government of national unity, which would see the opposition enter into government.
The proceedings, which are scheduled to last for 15 days, are beginning to confirm the third option. The president of the senate and a facilitator of the forum, Léon Kengo wa Dondo, has officially stated that the goal is a government of national unity. In private, his co-facilitator Aubin Minaku, the president of the national assembly, has confirmed this. 

The goal of co-opting the opposition would not be to bring about national reconciliation or state reform. Persistent rumors have suggested that Kabila is considering setting up a commission to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in 2016. While this constitutional change itself would be unconstitutional (Article 220 forbids any messing with term limits), and the jury is still out on whether Kabila will go ahead with this plan, he could probably pull it off if the opposition is sufficiently divided and/or co-opted. 

Initial indications would suggest that the talks are having that effect, as critics of the government are attracted by lavish per diems (one participant said they could be getting $200/day) and a possible place in the government. The MLC, the second largest opposition party, is attending, led by Thomas Luhaka, although the wing of Jean-Lucien Busa is baulking. And while Jean-Pierre Bemba has reportedly issued clear instructions to his parliamentarians not to enter into an alliance with Kabila, this could be a golden opportunity for some to line their pockets (there are good precedents: Kamitatu, Mwamba, Senga, etc. have jumped ship in the past). 

A similar, smaller dynamic is underway within the UDPS. A group of somewhere between five and twenty UDPS MPs, led by Serge Mayamba, is taking part in the concertations, defying Tshisekedi's orders. The civil society, meanwhile, is also divided, with some members participating and many others abstaining. And Léon Kengo, the leader of the UFC opposition party, is not only attending but is presiding over the assembly. It is only the UNC led by Vital Kamerhe that appears to be more or less united its opposition to the talks. 

All this makes sense. For Kamerhe, who seeks to emerge as the main opposition candidate for the 2016 elections, this is a good opportunity to prove that he is a real opponent to Kabila (as a former Kabila loyalist, his credentials have often been questioned). For Kengo and Luhaka, this good be as good an opportunity as any to obtain a ministerial position. For Tshisekedi, the concertations will again prove that this government is made up of opportunists. 

But, while the talks have only just begun, it would seem that the real winner may be Kabila, who could once again succeed in fragmenting the opposition by appealing to their self-interest. He may prove those Congolese pundits right who, with typical sarcasm, call the concertations "le monologue national," or "extraordinary congress of the PPRD [Kabila's main party]".


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I wanted to express my disappointment at the fact that once again we have shown that we really do not want to put Congo's sovereign interest above any other interests we may have. I am not sure if we do not want to, or we are simply incapable of rising above our own narrow interests. Nonetheless, I continue to hope that one day all our peoples and all our nations in Congo will come to our senses. They say that even a mad person has his/her moments of lucidity. Ours will come. One day we will realise that a nation where there is no national cohesion cannot achieve anything, let alone overcome the difficulties and challenges we have faced since 1960. Maybe not in our lifetime, but, that day will come. Let those of you, like me, who are condemned to hope remain steadfast and never give up the hope that Congo will fulfil Her destiny. "Tongo e ko tana" (Dawn will come).

tresor said...

despite it supposedly economic miracle Rwandans are among the least happiest people on earth. the UN happiness report rank Rwanda among the last five. while Congo is ranked 18 on the continent. it says a lot doesn't it

Unknown said...

Many thanks Jason for the updates. For my 2 cents worth, one remains skeptical about those “Concertations Nationales” mainly because of the criminal nature of Congolese politicians, unprincipled, flip-floppers extraordinaire. Right now the priority should be to win the war against M23/RDF and bring peace to the Kivus. The huge per diems paid to those thieves should rather be given to the valiant young Congolese (FARDC) who are “sacrificing their lives” on the frontline.

I suspect that for those in power, this is a mere box ticking exercise to comply with the “letter” of the Addis Framework. I thought by now even a Congolese toddler knows what CANCER wears down Congo from within: personalised/weak institutions, corruption, centralisation in policy formulation and improvisation in decision-making by provincial and central govs.,less competitive political process … The remedy therefore is not hard to find!

At the same time, what is worse is that there is NO opposition in Congo. We have folks who just hate JK dearly but not an opposition as an alternative. Armed with vague slogans, keeping portions of the populace as tribal hostages, everyone wants to be president in 2016 by hook or by crook. More importantly, if the opposition cannot agree amongst themselves to choose their spokesperson (as constitution stipulates), how would they agree with their enemy JK or be better than him?

In my view, a device should be found (by law) to make politics in Congo a limited-time occupation (< 15 years).It should most of all be issue-based (poverty, social security, unemployment, education, growth…). In other words, the influence of “big individuals” should be devolved, and the preeminence given to “big opposing political groupings” who would lock horns on ideas/policies to advance the country like Torries vs Labour in UK, or GOP vs Dems in USA.

Two weeks are not an eternity, we will wait and see if Congolese politicians can surprise!


Unknown said...

Tresor, LOL. I call that tired Rwanda-economic-miracle media fabrication a “propagandistic masturbation”. That is, however hard Kagamists try, a fantasy can’t replace reality. It is just such a disservice to Rwandan people, as since the poorest-of-the-poor Rwanda is “unbelievably” presented as a paradise, things are perfect. No Rwandan has no right to demand anything from their rulers like everywhere else (protests for better life in America, Europe, Israel, Africa, Congo). Kagame is not accountable to anyone just like Kim in NorthKorea.

So while FARDC was fixing up M23/RDF, the real deal Congo was achieving serious milestones, just 3:

(1)As Bill Clinton was “charitably” opening food canteens to curb malnutrition in Rwanda with int’l media splash, Congo has launched and self-funded a multimillion “campagne agricole” (huge annual nationwide programme to ensure food security after 20 years of nothing). But not a single int’l media mentions it when Africans are doing it themselves without an outside “saviour”.

(2)To improve business environment, the “guichet unique” (once-off company registration office) is now effective. You can open a business with just $120 in just 3 days. This might not mean much to outsiders, but it is nearly a miracle given the nightmarish state-of-affairs that was there.

(3)The “news of the century” is certainly the bid by the new/dynamic Central Bank governor Mutombo to form a regional hub securities exchange, not the illiquid over-the-counter mickey-mouse so-called exchange in Kigali-town. What a financing manna for provincial/local governments (sovereign bonds), and local companies (shares)! Also, all just heard that Moody’s finally attributed a credit rating to Congo that many enemies wanted to remain an int’l pariah. Though B3 rating, it is fair given where we come from but it should inevitably improve in due course. S&P and Fitch should follow suit. Dear int’l capital markets, here comes Congo!

The point is, DESPITE THE INJUST WAR, THE OBSTACLES, every single day in Congo silently, a “reform” is made somewhere, something is built or inaugurated. Yes the pace is still moderate. But all Congolese need, is peace in the Kivus. We don’t need to convince any Afro-pessimists or Congo-haters out there. Congolese people and gov. just need to steadfastly carry on with REFORMS, ignore mischievous noises. With peace, prosperity is inevitable in Congo!


Unknown said...

Congo waits, and, is ready to rise
Congo waits, and, is ready to shine
Congo is ready to rise, as has risen the Sun from the depths of the earth
The Sun (Ntangu) has risen from the earth's womb, so should Congo...
Kongo or Kwa-ngo, as our ancestors called Our Blessed Land
Is ready to rise up and roar like a Leopard
For, Kongo or Kwa-ngo, they say, means the land where dwells the leopard
(Mabele epayi oyo n'koyi a vandaka)...
Congo waits, and, is ready to rise,
as will rise the Moon (Ngonda) when darkness falls...
Congo waits to be taken to the place where She belongs:
Among the Greatest Nations the earth has bred...
Where are Congo's leading lights?
Congo waits...

While we argue and debate, Congo is waiting to take Her rightful place among the greatest nations the world has ever known...

Where are they?
Where are you?
Where are we, Congo's leading lights?
Aren't we rather fed up of arguing and endlessly debating?

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